Press Release

Safe Shape Tour across New York State Calls for “Safer Consumption Spaces” to Combat Skyrocketing Overdoses

More than 100 New York City healthcare professionals release an open letter supporting safer consumption spaces as a proven public health tool to reduce overdose and risk of HIV and hepatitis C
 
Advocates launch a 10-day tour of a model safer consumption space (SCS) and documentary on public injection in New York State to encourage public dialogue
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Contact:</h2>
<p>Jeremy Saunders, 917-676-8041, <a href="mailto:jeremy@vocal-ny.org">jeremy@vocal-ny.org</a></p>
<p>Kassandra Frederique, 646-209-0374, <a href="mailto:kfrederique@drugpolicy.org">kfrederique@drugpolicy.org</a></p>

New York, NY: In response to New York State's overdose and opioid epidemic, a coalition of healthcare professionals, public health experts, advocates, and people with a history of drug use are launching a statewide campaign calling for the creation of safer consumption spaces (SCS)/supervised injection facilities (SIF) where people can legally consume previously-purchased illicit drugs with supervision from peers and healthcare professionals who help make their use safer and connect them with medical care, drug treatment, and social services.

The campaign kicks off with the release of an open letter signed by more than 100 New York City healthcare professionals in support of safer consumption spaces and press conference where advocates will urge elected representatives to consider safer consumption spaces (SCS)/supervised injection facilities (SIF) as an innovative harm reduction tool to prevent further disease and death in our communities.

Advocates are simultaneously launching a 10-day statewide tour featuring Safe Shape, a model of a safer consumption space and a screening of “Everywhere But Safe,” a documentary about public injection in NYS, followed by a panel and community conversation. Tour sites include cities that have been hard-hit by the overdose crisis: Albany, Poughkeepsie, New York City, Ithaca, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. 

Nationally, there were 500,000 opioid-related deaths between 2000 and 2015. In 2015 alone, opioid and heroin overdoses killed 52,404 people--more people than traffic accidents and homicides combined. In New York State, deaths from drug overdoses increased 71 percent between 2010 and 2015, pointing to the urgent need for a bipartisan response that takes all concerns and communities into account. Emergency departments across the state saw 37,347 opioid-related outpatient visits (a 73.1% increase from 2010) and 75,110 opioid-related inpatient hospital admissions (a 3% increase from 2010) in 2014. Also due to increases in injection drug use, communities in New York have seen increases of up to 47% in new cases of hepatitis C since 2012.

As stakeholders around the state are demanding that we prioritize saving lives and recognizing that “we can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” New York State must continue to shift its approach away from the failed policies of the war on drugs to evidence­based drug policies, such as safer consumption spaces, that prioritize public health over costly criminal justice strategies that produce disastrous health outcomes and major racial disparities in law enforcement.

Safer consumption spaces are a harm reduction service that provide a safe, hygienic space in which people may inject pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of health workersand be linked to medical care, drug treatment, and social services. Nearly 100 SCS exist around the world. They have been rigorously evaluated and shown to steeply reduce overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis infections, and public disorder, and to increase access to drug treatment and other healthcare. Internationally, SCS have been tremendously effective in reducing rates of HIV infection, HCV infection, and overdose deaths, as well as improving public order by reducing improper syringe disposal and decreasing drug arrestsand saving taxpayer money.

While SCS do not yet exist in the United States, there is a lot of interest and progress in opening safer spaces across the nation. Kings County in Washington State has approved opening the nation’s first SCS, Maryland and Vermont have both introduced legislation to approve them, California legislators have expressed interest, and both Ithaca and New York City are studying potential implementation. 

“We can’t sit back any longer while our friends and loved ones die when we know there is more we could be doing, right now, to protect those most at risk,” said Shantae Owens, a member of the advocacy group VOCAL New York who described his own experience injecting heroin in unsafe, unsanitary places while homeless in a New York Daily News essay. “The sooner New York allows safe consumption spaces, the more lives we’ll save.”

To serve hard-to-reach communities across our state and to assure public health response to problematic substance use, communities should provide a point-of-care intervention for people who use drugs that include all of the necessary harm reduction tools and resources within a safer consumption space, such as expanded access to naloxone, safer drug use equipment (e.g. syringes), and drug treatment.

Further systemic changes are needed to address the persistent stigma of drug use, the dearth of education among providers and agencies regarding addiction and harm reduction, policies that exacerbate racial disparities, and ongoing barriers to care that continue to take a devastating toll in lost lives.

“If we want to save lives, reduce criminalization, and end racial disparities, we need comprehensive, innovative, and forward-thinking approaches like safer consumption spaces,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “New York is in a unique position to step up and implement innovative drug policies rooted in science, compassion, and public health as we did with syringe exchanges before.”

Learn more: http://www.drugpolicy.org/supervised-injection-facilities

 

Safe Shape NY Tour Schedule:

4/26: Albany - Register Here!

Exhibit: Albany Convention Center- Meeting Room 7, 11am-4pm
Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12210

Screening: Albany Convention Center- Meeting Room 7, 9am-11am
Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12210

 

4/27: Albany - Register Here!

Exhibit: University at Albany, Campus Center, 1pm-5pm
Campus Center 137-1400 Washington Ave Albany, NY 12222

Screening: University at Albany- Lecture Center 7, 7:15pm-9pm
1400 Washington Avenue Albany, NY 12222

 

4/28: Poughkeepsie - Register Here!

Exhibit: Vassar College, 1pm-5pm
124 Raymond Ave. Poughkeepsie, NY 12604

Screening: Vassar College, 6pm-8pm
124 Raymond Ave. Poughkeepsie, NY 12604

 

4/30: NYC - South Bronx - Register Here!

Exhibit: Saint Mary's Park, 12pm-5pm
450 St Ann's Ave, Bronx, NY 10455

Screening: Bronx Documentary Center, 5pm-7pm
614 Courtlandt Ave, Bronx, NY 10451

 

5/1:NYC - Register Here!

Exhibit: City Hall Park, 1pm-5pm
43 Park Row, New York, NY 10038

Screening: CUNY School of Public Health,5pm-8pm
55 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027

 

5/2: Ithaca - Register Here!

Exhibit: Ithaca Commons- Bernie Milton Pavilion,1:30pm-5:30pm

Screening: Ithaca College- Hill Center 104,7pm-9pm
953 Danby Rd Ithaca, NY 14850

 

5/3: Buffalo - Register Here!

Exhibit: Lafayette Square, 1pm-5pm
Main St and Washington St, Buffalo, NY 14203

Screening: Hotel @ the Lafayette,6pm-8pm
391 Washington Street, Buffalo, NY 14203

 

5/4: Rochester - Register Here!
Exhibit: MLK Jr. Memorial Lodge- 1pm-5pm
353 Court St, Rochester, NY 14607

Screening: MLK Jr. Memorial Lodge, 6pm-8pm
353 Court St, Rochester, NY 14607

 

5/5: Syracuse - Register Here!
UPDATED Exhibit Location: ACR Health (parking garage)- 1pm-5pm
637 W. Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY 13204

Screening: Southside Innovation Center, 6pm-8pm
2610 S Salina St, Syracuse, NY 13205

Supervised Injection Facilities
New York